Thursday, November 08, 2007

Actual Conversation

Jake: Hi, do you want to talk about that issue some more?

Jeff: Yes, right now I am trying to find some distinction between being content and being happy.

Jake: As it turns out, I was just talking to some people at Harvard about that.

Jeff: Why are you telling me they are from Harvard?

(Long Pause)

Jake: I am not sure what you mean.

Jeff: Am I supposed to attach some significance to that?

Jake: They are smart people.

Jeff: Just because they are at Harvard? If they had said the same thing and were at Weaver State would you tell me that they were from Weaver State and that, therefore, you do not know how much to rely on what they said?

So far Moneylaw has been about operating a law school – hiring, tenure decisions, how to best spend money to serve stakeholders. As we know, and has been debated for some time, appeals to institutional authority as a substitute for actual thinking are pervasive. Teachers who make it known that they went to an elite school are essentially saying – no need the think critically about what I say because I went to Harvard, Yale, wherever. Authors who submit articles thanking “authorities” with whom they had only slight contact do the same. So too authors who submit articles and make sure editors know where they graduated from or are currently teaching. To finish writing the number of examples would mean a post longer than anything (maybe everything) ever published on Moneylaw and that is saying something.

I find two things interesting. There are people who actually defend this. And even when I convince people that it is wrongheaded, they cannot stop it. Maybe, as Woody Allen said in the voice over at the end of Annie Hall, “They need the eggs.”

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff: What about this. Your friend mentions Harvard because, like it or not, people there influence others and if he can influence the Harvard people, he can influence the world.

11/08/2007 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure what anon is saying. I did not think Harrison meant that his friend should not talk to people at Harvard or even not attempt to influence them. I think he asking what is relevance of the source of an idea.

11/08/2007 4:58 PM  
Blogger Richard Peck said...

Anonymous: What about this? Jake drops Harvard's name to make his ensuing comments seem more authoritative than he is prepared to say they are because Jake has not yet engaged in the critical thinking that is necessary in order to accept or reject the merits of the statement independently?

11/08/2007 5:12 PM  

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