[lit-ideas] Re: Shaming, Shocking Editorialising Etc.

  • From: John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Lit-Ideas <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:39:35 +0900

Further to what Donal says here,


One interesting question might be why in the world one would expect
anything different from the situations that Donal and Daniel Little
describe, given that professors teach and approve what they themselves
regard highly and, in what Thomas Kuhn labeled pre-paradigmatic disciplines
there is no overarching framework to which everyone subscribes.



On Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 9:58 PM, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>wrote:

> http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/26/former-oed-editor-deleted-words
> I have previously written of the editorialising and agenda-setting rife in
> Oxford (as a Popperian of sorts, with Popper a persona non grata there, I
> might be more alert to this aspect of undergraduate courses than some other
> students): for example, if there was a topic to be studied in philosophy
> then what some local professsor wrote on it recently would be on the
> reading-list even if it was far from the best material available (Bryan
> Magee describes this kind of endemic parochialism at more persuasive length
> in his 'Confessions of a Philosopher', and he should know as he was a tutor
> there; and what was true here of Oxford was true in some other places);
> Kant was merely optional, not essential, to the study of modern Western
> philosophy, whereas a triple dose of British empiricists - Locke, Berkeley,
> Hume - was of course essential etc. The choice of topic might itself be a
> reflection of local academic concerns. In my time, Roman Law was compulsory
> to the undergraduate honours school of 'jurisprudence [Roman Law
> specialists abounded in the faculty]; but, staggerlingly, European Law
> (though essentially incorporated into domestic law and prevailing if they
> conflicted) was merely optional. But it is not just that the local
> professor, and local specialities of subject-matter, were the focus of
> study. It is that largely accepting a certain POV was the key to success in
> examinations. The suspicion is that to do well there you had parrot a
> clever version of some prevailing academic wisdom - just as you might aim
> to do so to prosper at the leading academic institutions in France or in
> communist Russia. A clever reservation about some minor aspect of HLA
> Hart's 'The Concept of Law' might score well but you would not do so well
> suggesting there was an underlying project to that book and that it was
> fundamentally misconceived (after all, you would be likely marked by a
> 'Hartian' of some sort - for whom the dogma that there are concepts to be
> analysed, and 'law' is one them, would have been beyond successful
> challenge as it constituted the very raison d'etre of their academic
> approach). That is, clever disagreement over minor matters might be
> rewarded but not radical disagreement over fundamentals. In short, the
> fundamental and even covert biases of the marker would play a large part in
> some degree subjects - generally, the less science in the subject the
> greater the role of bias in marking. This is not something academics might
> want to publicly admit, but it seems to me almost inevitably the case. It
> is in this light that we might view the story urled: where choosing what
> belongs in the lexicographical 'canon' is not a matter of scientific
> judgment, inevitably biases and values colour the job - though the lack of
> objectivity may take time to become clear.
> Donal

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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