Wednesday, June 03, 2015


[§5 here.]

Mallarmé famously said that “the world exists to end up in a book”. For an academic, we might say it exists to end up in a “paper”—a journal article or a conference presentation. Scholarly knowledge is capable of being represented in words, of being discussed separate from a “live” demonstration of its content in the field or in the lab. This requires the existence of a shared vocabulary for the communication of a number of familiar experiences that one person can have and another can imagine well enough to replicate. A natural scientist, for example, can describe an experiment such that another can carry out a similar experiment and compare the results. A scholar in the humanities can identify a body of text and describe the experience of reading them so that another can carry out a comparable reading. For a scholar to say that the relevant experience is not communicable in words is tantamount to saying that they don’t really know. In fact, the production of “academic” knowledge is precisely the business of discovering things that can be documented, so that one’s peers don’t have to take one’s account of an experience on faith.

(197 words)

[§7 here.]

[Note: this post is part of an ongoing project described here. I'll be offering some meta-reflections on this project over at Jonathan Mayhew's blog, Stupid Motivational Tricks.]

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