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STEP FOUR: Identifying Point of View

Almost every creator of a document embraces a cluster of beliefs, desires, and values that go together. This is his or her conceptual framework, or point of view, which is usually shared by a community of likeminded people.

We often hang labels on these worldviews such as ʺliberalʺ or ʺconservative,ʺ and we group people who share them under headings like ʺhippiesʺ or ʺIslamic Fundamentalists.ʺ These labels are always too simplistic; lifeʹs simply more complicated than that. But identifying a documentʹs basic point of view is nevertheless important because it enables you to connect it with established patterns of thinking. Answering the question ʺWhere are they coming from?ʺ permits you to understand a document by putting it in a context.

1. Look at the audience you identified and the purpose you discovered in step one. Look at the lists of main points and assumptions you drew up in steps two and three. What do they have in common? Do they make a pattern that you can name or recognize?

2. Look at the document again, noting any buzz words, jargon, or key vocabulary repeated throughout it. Is there a cluster of key concepts in those oftenused terms?

3. What authorities does the writer appeal to or use as examples ‐ ‐ scientists, historical figures, religious leaders, fictional heroes, previous writers? What do you know about their points of view?

4. What do the main points and underlying assumptions seem to be on the following pairs of issues:

  • freedom vs. authority

  • equality vs. merit

  • personal liberty vs. public order

  • local region vs. nation

  • individual rights vs. common good

  • obeying the law vs. obeying oneʹs

conscience

  • tolerance vs. imposed standards

  • civic duty vs. private gain

  • obligation vs. pleasure

5. Hundreds of ways exist to classify conceptual frameworks and worldviews. Try to identify the authorʹs point of view using a wellknown label like one of these (or

atheist

liberal

Christian

libertarian

conservative

Marxist

fascist

progressive

feminist

reactionary

Freudian

scientific

humanist

utopian

another).

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