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Knut Hamson

knut_hamson in faculty_r_us

In another blog a few days ago, I came across a comment I have been thinking on since then, and I was wondering what y'all thought.

The comment: Legitimate academics are engaged in the disinterested inquiry into truth, whereas the employees of think-tanks are engaged in the partisan inquiry into justification for their ideology, regardless of the truth.

Is this really the case?  I do not disagree with this person's take on think-tanks.  However, I distrust the claim that legitimate academics can be disinterested, or beyond ideological biases.




I don't know enough about thinktanks.

As for academics, I think many are quite interested in "truth." It can be somewhat lost in the rules of academia and the requirements for fitting in or trying to achieve tenure. I do think most people operate with ideological bias.

But if you can get little moments of joy out of it (those times that feel almost like revelations) then aren't you in a genuine quest towards something meaningful?
The argument is not necessarily that academics are disinterested; rather, the inquiry that they pursue is supposed to be. You may wish to read Max Weber on objectivity and Peter Berger's response.
I've met very few academics who think that it's possible to be objective or that there is an "objective truth" out there. The original poster sounds like a well-intentioned student (no offense - I'm one too) who has not yet been thoroughly mocked as the second coming of von Ranke.

I'm sympathetic to the idea of at least *striving* for objectivity and truth - just because you "can't nail jelly to the wall" (this seems to be the common "objectivity, ha! ha! locution") doesn't mean that you can't improvise something that will do a passable job of causing the jelly and the wall to cohere reasonably well - but anyone who thinks that history actually can tell the "truth" about the past - wie es eigentlich gewesen ist - probably needs to do a little more thinking about how that claim can be legitimized.

Re: Moderator Question

I was referring to the blog that the poster was citing as his original source - that source does seem a bit naive, which I imagine is the same position as the poster on this community takes. I teach here at IU but since that's also my PhD institution I'll leave the community.
P.S. As to polemicizing and partisanship, it is downright HILARIOUS for someone to assert that academia and academics in general are (or should be, if they want to be "legitimate") free from political agenda, bias, ideology, etc.

Honestly, it's hard to imagine the original blogger has spent much time in the academy. That's just so dreadfully naive.

March 2009

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