“The pedigree of psychological concepts: I strive not after exactness, but after a synoptic view.”
--Ludwig Wittgenstein, Zettel §464
The term “critical synoptics” can be used to refer to a number of analytical activities. For philosophers and literary critics, critical synoptics refers to the examination of the influences of context, scenario and lexical/syntactical precision upon the meanings of propositions and concepts. The idea is to construct a synoptic overview of a concept or proposition. Any variety of techniques might be applied toward this end. In memorable terms, the basic idea of synoptic analysis is to tell stories about the ways propositions and concepts are used and understood. Such an overview provides a test for determining whether or not the proposition is valid, sensible, nonsensical, absurd, appropriate, useful, meaningful, and so on. Once an appreciation for the synoptic overview is part and parcel of the critic's technique, any variety of concepts might be analyzed. The point of the following questions is to realize a synoptic overview:
1. How is the concept used? The use of the word, phrase, or proposition determines its meaning.
2. How is the concept used and understood in other scenarios? What is the accustomed practice of its use? The meaning of a word, phrase, or proposition is determined by what is explained by an explanation of its meaning, or an explanation of the rules for its use. (How does the concept reflect the discourse community that gives it rise?).
3. How is the concept understood? The way the word, phrase, or proposition is understood is its meaning.
4. What does the concept mean in simplified terms? How would the use of the word, phrase, or proposition be taught to a child?
5. What are the implications of the concept? What kind of world must be necessary in order for the use of the word, phrase, or proposition to be correct or legitimate?
6. Are abstract nouns used in the formulation of the concept? Abstract nouns often have no validity outside of (and thus also within) the proposition in which they are used.
7. Does the concept represent an empirical explanation of a phenomenon, or does it advance understanding of a phenomenon? Does the concept represent what we really want to know about a phenomenon?