LeFevre’s article is concerned with the explanation of a social act. The paper is divided into four parts: social aspects of the invention, invention as a dialectical process, invention as an act, and classical criteria for a social view of the invention. LeFevre offers a distinction between Platonic and social perspectives on the invention.
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Analyzing social peculiarities of invention, the author draws attention to several important features. First of all, the inventing “self” is impacted by social factors (LeFevre 34). Therefore, the invention may be considered social even when initiated by a single person. Next, the process of inventing is performed with a system of symbols. Since language is a social feature, the invention is social, as well. Another reason for invention’s social nature is that it involves the knowledge of previous generations that presents a legacy of opinions and ideas (LeFevre 34). Other proofs of invention’s social nature are the possibility to enable it by an internal dialogue, the involvement of other participants, and the impact of social collectives and context (LeFevre 34-35).
Regarding invention as a dialectical process, LeFevre remarks that it combines the efforts of the inventing people and sociocultural aspects (35). Such a dialectical “partnership” helps to form new ideas (LeFevre 35). An exclusive peculiarity of the individual investor, according to the author, is his or her ability to interact with the sociocultural and other individuals. At the same time, LeFevre notes that there is a contrary position according to which invention can relate to either sociocultural or others but not to both (36-37).
LeFevre remarks that when viewing invention from the social perspective requires analyzing it as an act (38). Two approaches are considered in this respect. The first one states that the action is initiated by the inventor and completed by the audience. The second one regards invention as an act that incorporates symbolic endeavors, such as writing or speaking, and continues over time (LeFevre 38). The author notes that the comprehension of the rhetorical invention involves considering two parts of this notion: the initiation of the act and its reception (LeFevre 38). Therefore, the inventor cannot exist without the presence of someone else. One of the ways of treating invention in this respect is considering it as the collaboration between the writer and the reader. As LeFevre emphasizes, there is a notable distance between these actors (38-39).
Another crucial issue to consider is the time dimension (LeFevre 40). The author connects the significance of this tendency with the need to take into consideration not only the creation of texts but also their revision (LeFevre 40). Such an approach is defended by such theorists as Foucault, Braudel, and others. The role of the time aspect is explained by the need to consider the aim and perspective of the definer.
In the final part of the chapter, LeFevre explains her views on classical precedents for invention’s social aspect (44-46). The author notes that considering invention from a social viewpoint may appear “unorthodox” (LeFevre 44). Arguing that invention is a purely social act may seem to be against commonly accepted capitalistic tendencies. LeFevre mentions that such an approach to the invention is sometimes received as the underestimation of the committee’s role (44). However, the author concludes that the social perspective does not take away the individual’s duties or rights and that it is not as exceptional as it looks (LeFevre 44). Thus, through a variety of proofs, LeFevre manages to provide a logical explanation of invention being a social act.
LeFevre, Karen Burke. “Invention as a Social Act.” Invention as a Social Act, edited by Karen Burke LeFevre, Southern Illinois University Press, 1987, pp. 33-47.