The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1117  Monday, 14 May 2001

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 11 May 2001 23:06:29 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1109 Re: Seminars

[2]     From:   Florence Amit <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 12 May 2001 02:24:34 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1109 Re: Seminars

From:           Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 11 May 2001 23:06:29 -0700
Subject: 12.1109 Re: Seminars
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1109 Re: Seminars

Yes, let's be serious.

>I'm not suggesting for a single moment that academics imitate fictional
>mafia characters, although I think there is much more displaced violence
>in the groves of academe than most academics are prepared to admit.

You picked a rather odd metaphor then, didn't you?

>My concern is that we don't accept uncritically a notion of 'ethics' that
>is ideologically loaded.

It's by no means clear that we should use ideology to judge ethics (why
the scare quotes? do you actually have a reason, or are you just trying
to cast aspersions on a concept without providing any argument?) and not
the other way around.  To say that ethics should be judged on the
grounds of ideology seems to imply justifying evils committed in the
name of a cause, whereas, conversely, if we allow ideology to be judged
on the basis of ethics, we can question whether the cause is a good one.

>Saying that a particular argument is deficient is not quite the same (nor
>should it be) as saying that the individual who advances it is 'deficient'.

Indeed.  Hence we ought to follow Messers. Cox and White and value very
highly what John called "the civility everyone showed and the evident
attention people paid to each other's comments", then do our utmost to
mimic it in our online forum.  Your comment on the fourth of this month
that "Messrs Cox and White can retire to the senior common room if they
wish" would seem to declare such notions irrelevant, and I take issue
with that assertion.

>While I favour controlled
>speculation I draw the line at the position, advanced by one contributor
>to SHAKSPER recently, which says that I haven't read what you are
>referring to, I haven't thought about this problem, but I intend to have
>my say on it anyway.  I see no reason why we should tolerate this kind
>of professional behaviour.  We are not talking here about being 'polite'
>to our colleagues on a day-to-day basis but about informed intellectual
>exchange.  Here ego should take a back seat.

Your use of the term 'ego' seems ambiguous here, since it's a palpable
ego-boost to trash someone.

That said, no, we shouldn't tolerate this sort of professional
behaviour.  Nothing says that we have to be nasty about it, or that
civility either in tolerating disparate opinions or in maintaining
professional standards would be a surrender to "the touchy-feely world
of sustaining each other's fragile egos." Nor would it be a retirement
"to the senior common room".  There are, I am assuming, other
alternatives than malevolence or irrelevance.

>As a counter-example, we might take Terence Hawkes' recent and quite
>proper intervention to correct Andrew White's spectacularly wrong

I would compare it with my own intervention to Mr. White's assertion.  I
hardly see why we should abandon argument, as Terry so egregiously did,
or to simply accuse people of being "spectacularly and exquisitely
wrong".  To do so is not only to abandon academic criteria--since any
idiot can call someone wrong--but also to indulge our egos.

>I suspect, Sean, that the ethics that you are advancing gives a high
>priority to the freedom of anyone to say what they like.

Actually, you're wrong.  I'm much more worried about our
responsibilities to one another than our rights.  Insofar as we aren't
respecting other people or the social contract of our academic
community, we're failing such responsibilities, and should limit our own
freedoms.  Just because something is possible doesn't mean that it
should be permitted.

>I have a rather more socialist ethic that demands that there should be no
>freedom without responsibility, and that before you (not 'you' in the
>personal sense: we would say 'one' on this side of the pond) fire off
>your impressions to the world then some attempt ought to be made to, at
>least, acknowledge their accuracy or otherwise. These are academic
>protocols, not ethics, and even these carry a political charge.

They are ethics, insofar as protocols list and delimit our
responsibilities to each other and the material which we are treating.

>I speak as some members of the list seem now to have Peter Blayney in
>their sights.  Would it be very un-American of me to suggest that before
>Peter is accused of saying things that he has not, then they familiarise
>themselves a little more closely with what he HAS said?

I haven't followed this argument, don't care, and please don't call me
American.  You'd think that my Canadian nationality would be abundantly
clear by now.


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