Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Project

When one does something like what I'm doing – posting articles that aspire to be scholarly – one has to wonder, why?  After all, to say that I have a small readership is probably to exaggerate on the high side. I suspect that I even have an anti-audience – people, primarily academics, who avoid reading things I write because they have not been written by an academic or been peer-reviewed. Robert Higgs – who I have met, and who seems like a nice guy – has scoffed at authors who write on the Internet because they do not have a scholarly outlet that will publish them. Steve Horwitz has declined to respond to criticisms from people who have not had those criticisms subjected to the same academic standards of publication that his work has, and Peter Boettke has made it clear that not being in academia means it is unlikely, if not impossible, that you can add to economics, either in theory or application.

Of course, they don't know the years of tortuous thinking I have gone through to try to resolve the fundamental questions I write about; but even if they did they wouldn't have any reason to pay any more attention. Lots of people beat their heads against walls trying to figure something out, without success, and there is no reason to believe that I'm any different. And besides, I doubt that many of them even believe that the issues I worry over are unresolved or, if unresolved, merit much thought.

One possibility is that I am writing for myself, but in the sense that just isn't so. I really hate writing – thinking is a lot more fun. Writing is just the laborious process of trying to organize your thoughts in such a way that others can make sense of them. I already know what I think and am quite content with my understanding of the world. Putting it down takes time away from doing more thinking.

Of course, I really am writing for myself, because there is no other basis for action. I'm writing because I hope that someone will someday stumble on these ideas, and they will make a difference – that I will have added in some small, enduring measure to the knowledge of mankind. If the arguments I make are less-than-robust, I hope for someone who can take and fashion from them arguments that leave their greatest opponents defenseless. In that case I hope for a great composer to make a symphony from my folk tunes. If the arguments are robust, but the number of references lacking and the consideration of other points of view academically inadequate, I hope for a young person that has the time and energy to fill the gaps.

Although I must say that I feel frustration at the lack of an academic audience, I do not think of it as a conspiracy. The academics I mentioned are honorable and have no ax to grind in my case. It is simply the way of the world coupled with the fact that I came to what I think are interesting conclusions so late in life. After years of being a thought consumer it is difficult, if not impossible, to become recognized as a thought producer.
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Jon said...

I think academics use the "they need a degree" excuse not to read other people's material only for the mere fact that there is so much content out in the world or simply because they are full of themselves.

From what I understand some of the greatest known philosopher's in the world came from outside of academia.

Although I agree that professionalism is important I think it is more important not by a piece of paper but by the power of the argument or by what is actually produced by the person.

My two cents on academics.

Anonymous said...

I have a problem with the "I'm and academic and you're not" attitude.I have learned that a degree, any degree, means you met someone's qualifications for that degree. It does not mean you are intelligent, creative, or better than anyone else. I have known several people without degrees that can out think and out act most people with degrees. I'm glad I found your page!

Brian J. Gladish said...

Thanks to both of you for the positive comments. I hope that the thinking I have been presenting here is useful in your thinking, and that you find future posts of value.