Working Definitions

My First Search

I thought it essential to this blog, that I began by introducing how thinkers have dealt with ideas like diversity in their work and use that to inform my definitions of it and the manner in which I approach “defining” ideas in my poetry.

in “Song of Myself” Walt Whitman states

“For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

This, is one understanding of diversity which seems to me to be most closely tied to the american ideal. Whitman seems to be hinting at diversity as being  the notion of the connection between peoples. Diversity is found in the fact that we are all made up of the same stuff but that we somehow find ways to make ourselves different.

For a more academic definition we can turn to Aristotle who in “Rhetoric” notes that “The arousing of prejudice, pity, anger, and similar emotions has nothing to do with the essential facts, but is merely a personal appeal to the man who is judging the case” (Rhetoric, Aristotle Part 1). To me this quote is connected to diversity in that it acknowledges that there are different ways through which one might persuade an audience. It contributes to the definition I’m trying to build because I would like my definition to extend beyond personal appeals. Another one of Aristotle’s quotes that has been formative in my definition is the following “before some audiences not even the possession of the exactest knowledge will make it easy for what we say to produce conviction” (Part 1). This brief passage acknowledges that there are cases where even a great deal of evidence will not persuade an audience. As Whitman acknowledges, one aspect of diversity is differing opinion and engaging with people who hold contrary beliefs to one’s own.

Another important thinker who has contributed to the notion of diversity which I hope to build on here is Chimamamanda Adichie who in a TED talk acknowledges that “I was some immersed in the media coverage of Mexicans that they had become one thing in my mind, the . . . (Inaudible) immigrant” (Adichie). This quote also shows the importance of coming up with a definition for diversity because failing to do so, and assuming continuity where there is diversity can create a monolithic conception of certain identities which are in fact diverse in themselves.

Given these considerations I will define diverse cultures as being communities of individuals which vary in individual properties and which may accept fundamentally different views. This definition avoids marginalizing the voices by acknowledging that there are may be sub groups within a culture and by functioning under the label of a “working definition” avoids  Aristotle’s “intrinsically valuable” label as it is subject to revision.

The definitions in my poetry will undoubtably include references to such works and will be indebted to these ideas, but I will also learn more from what is to come and each experience and piece of work I study will influence my working definitions.


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