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Thursday, July 27, 2006
 
ipse dixit doesn't end it ::

What is the role of "authority" in scholarship? AKMA posts ("Scholars and Oracles") on the ways we use "so-and-so said it" or an appeal to authority in both everyday life and in scholarship.

The post struck home, as I've just been in marking-mode (when I've not been miserable with flu) for months (don't worry, both are pretty much over now). One of my criteria for most assignments is "use of evidence" and I regularly find myself commenting to students:
As you read do not forget to ask: How do you I know that? As you write remember to provide answers for your reader.
Sometimes I even put it stronger with comments like:
... and if no answer is available be aware that you do NOT know "that"!
And yet, scholarly articles and monographs regularly and habitually cite "authorities". And [To start a second sentence with a conjunction!] if peer review works "authorities" should be (at least somewhat) authoritative. And yet [See, now I've started I cannot resist!!] scholarship is surely about evidence and argument, not about authority!

I think AKMA makes good points about our need to rely (more?) on authorities outside our Fields of expertise, but like him I'm uncomfortable with that...

;-) Ah, how simple were the "good old days" when ipse dixit ended the affair. ;-)


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