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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Facing Inward / Facing Outward

Every scholarly publication faces inward and outward at the same time. It addresses its own field, people who already care about the subject matter. It also "represents" the field or subfield to those outside of it. Those outside might be students not yet in the field, or those in closely related areas. Or even non-academic relatives. Or the news media.

Think about all the times I read outside my field, a book on Gadamer, say. That book represents the field for me, an outsider. But the writer might be turned wholly inward, toward other philosophers or specialists on hermeneutics. Then I get rather irritated. Why has the author not thought of me?

These responsibilities are equally important. Inward-looking effort is the basis of scholarly reputation and competence. Yet grant proposals always ask for some justification for "significance," or "why anyone who doesn't already give a damn should care."

You cannot only look outwards, because then you are no longer a scholar. You no longer have a field to "represent" to the outside world.

Think of a double-hinged door, that swings both ways.

***

Still in the airport so I have a lot of time to blog. Wasted time? Not really. If I were home I would just be sleeping at this hour.

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