While anything goes in political and marital arguments, academic arguments, like legal ones, occur within strict boundaries. Academics have few documented rules to guide them; their strictures are mostly unspoken.
Academic arguments earn praise for their “originality,” and academic lose stature even jobs when they commit plagiarism.
But who determines originality?
Everyone builds on the work of others. And this I believe also inclusive of those who advocate for universally sharing and owning knowledge want credit for their thought and their originality. In academia, nothing exceeds originality in value; it shapes the rules of academic arguments.
Where did the Academic Argument came from?
Academic arguments don’t come out of nowhere. We join an old argument every time we engage in a debate. At best, most academic arguments bring a new perspective to an old argument.
The rules demand that we ground our new interpretations in evidence. In a court of law, a judge can deem certain evidence as “inadmissible,” such as arguments that break the rules.
That doesn’t happen in academia. Students take hard personal and partisan positions in their papers and dissertation, and professors sometimes teach their personal political views. Happened to me in my university years. Increasingly, the bounded argument space of academia is opening to near unbounded argument.
For example . . .
As we want to argue that the Holocaust didn’t happen, for example, the rules overwhelm the discourse as being built on falsity and the argument goes nowhere. Even on less contentious matters, unless we have a professorship and acknowledged expertise (degree of our believability), our arguments won’t get a serious hearing.
As in the courtroom and other venues where bounded argument prevails, expertise always wins. If scientific consensus supports evolution, for example, proponents of “intelligent design” can find no place in most classrooms or peer-reviewed journals.
Academic arguments don’t get things done; they shape thinking. This separation from direct action distinguishes academic argument from political, marital and legal arguments.
Academic arguments occur for their own sake. And most academicians knows the rules and rarely stray.
Categories: Reading Notes