one of list discussions and academic method

Lynken Ghose lynkenghose at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 14 18:32:11 UTC 2000

Dear List Members:

I have read through the various messages concerning the nature and scope of
this list. I feel the need to respond in some way but am having difficulty
with deciding what I would like to express. I am afraid that, even in
attempting to express something, I may fall into the same trap as most
people do: creating one's own form of fundamentalism. But, I will give it a
shot anyway.

First of all, it should be said that the various fundamentalist sentiments,
semi-violent to violent verbal barrages, etc. are obviously self serving and
more restraint should be shown. I'm not sure how provoking more violence
will cure or heal the wounds of the past.

People should really think a little more carefully before pushing the send
button. As one person said a while back, just send whatever you would say
face to face.

This admonition should also be issued to scholars in the field as well as
non-scholars. I have noticed that a number of very arrogant remarks have
gone by unchecked; yet, arrogance feels like as much of an assault as
violently expressed fundamentalist sentiments.

Also, arrogant quips and elitist sentiments impede the discussion as much as
any of the other dogmatic stances that have been expressed, and they are
just as self serving.

This being said, I would like to address one particular dogma that seems to
prop up academic elitism in the humanities and social sciences. It still
seems to be a commonly held belief that the dispassionate or detached
observation of phenomena, be they archaeological finds, textual passages
etc. leads to superior judgement concerning these very facts.

First, let us examine this idea of dispassion. Is it truly a real concept?
If we consider many of the studies coming out of Cognitive Psychology,
psychologists seem to be telling us that cognition and emotion are
inseparable. Therefore, if dispassion is defined as cognitive investigation
devoid of emotion, then this is not referring to any real phenomenon.

I guess what I'm trying to say here with the last two paragraphs is the
following: just because we are scholars in the field does not necessarily
mean that our judgement from the facts is superior.

It may mean that we have more facts at our disposal in certain areas; but
this belief is more harmless, in that it does not lead to elitist
sentiments, whereas the belief in superior judgement will.

Perhaps this message will be considered unacceptable too. If so, then I will
accept the consequences.


Lynken Ghose
Iowa State University

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