Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée History

Why do scholars frequently evaluate each other’s work in terms that are centuries old? Although modern science differs considerably from early modern learning, 17th-century terms like “dogmatism,” “prejudice,” and “speculation” are still being used, even if their meanings have changed over time.

This project tries to explain the persistence of this cultural repertoire by zooming in on (1) interaction between idioms (cultural repertoires) available to scholars at certain points in time, (2) mechanisms that help transmit repertoires across time and place, and (3) rhetorical purposes for which repertoires can be used.

Drawing on a wide array of 18th, 19th, and 20th-century sources from across the academic spectrum, the project tests three hypotheses: (1) early modern language of vice persisted in productive interaction with modern notions of “bias,” “subjectivity,” and “conflicts of interest”; (2) commonplaces, anecdotes, and stereotypes (“dark Middle Ages”) were major mechanisms of transmission; and (3) language of vice was attractive, not despite, but because of its time-honored origins.

By doing so, the project hopes to enrich our understanding of continuity and discontinuity between early modern learning and modern science. It hopes to build bridges between fields (in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences) that are too often studied in isolation from each other. Finally, in the realm of knowledge utilization, it wants to encourage scholars to reflect on contemporary scholarly virtues and vices.

Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée History

Why do scholars frequently evaluate each other’s work in terms that are centuries old? Although modern science differs considerably from early modern learning, 17th-century terms like “dogmatism,” “prejudice,” and “speculation” are still being used, even if their meanings have changed over time.

This project tries to explain the persistence of this cultural repertoire by zooming in on (1) interaction between idioms (cultural repertoires) available to scholars at certain points in time, (2) mechanisms that help transmit repertoires across time and place, and (3) rhetorical purposes for which repertoires can be used.

Drawing on a wide array of 18th, 19th, and 20th-century sources from across the academic spectrum, the project tests three hypotheses: (1) early modern language of vice persisted in productive interaction with modern notions of “bias,” “subjectivity,” and “conflicts of interest”; (2) commonplaces, anecdotes, and stereotypes (“dark Middle Ages”) were major mechanisms of transmission; and (3) language of vice was attractive, not despite, but because of its time-honored origins.

By doing so, the project hopes to enrich our understanding of continuity and discontinuity between early modern learning and modern science. It hopes to build bridges between fields (in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences) that are too often studied in isolation from each other. Finally, in the realm of knowledge utilization, it wants to encourage scholars to reflect on contemporary scholarly virtues and vices.

Subprojects

1

Pride and Prejudice: Moral Languages in Scholarly Codes of Conduct, 1900-2000

If idioms employed in codes of conduct could be as idiosyncratic as examples suggest, then to what extent did early modern language of vice, too, persist in this genre?

Commenting on the five revisions (1903, 1912, 1947, 1957, 1980) made to the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics (1847), Albert Jonsen observes that even the newest version of the code “remained a compendium of the traditional deontology, decorum, and politic ethics.” Likewise, The Chemist’s Creed, adopted by the American Chemical Association in 1965, creatively combined “honor” and “virtue” with “interest” and “duty,” just as the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (1987) used an amalgam of “rules,” “values,” and “virtues” to describe the historian’s moral responsibilities. If idioms employed in codes of conduct could be as idiosyncratic as these examples suggest, then to what extent did early modern language of vice, too, persist in this genre?

The project addresses this question on the basis of some one hundred scholarly codes of ethics, varying from the electrical engineers’ Code of Ethics (1907) and the Code of Ethics for Scientific Men (1927) issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the Association of Social Science Researchers’ Code of Ethics (1996). They are all available in the Ethics Code Collection (ECC) – the world’s largest online repository of codes of conduct, maintained by the Illinois Institute of Technology (http://ethics.iit.edu/ecodes). In assessing the prevalence and relative prominence of language of vice, the project pays special attention to the intertextuality (i.e., the textual dependency relations) within the genre.

Contact: Herman Paul.

AMA
AMA code of medical ethics, 1847
Books, 2018, photo taken by Vincente. Picture licensed under the terms of the bb-by-nc-nd-2.0 and retrieved from Flickr. No changes were made to the photo.
2

Falling Short of Expectations: Evaluative Languages in Scholarly Book Reviews, 1900-2000

What evaluative languages (errors, mistakes, vices, etc.) did book reviewers employ? To what extent and on what occasions did they invoke early modern vices? And to what extent did this differ across fields or change over the course of the century?

How scholars talked on “Monday,” that is, in their ordinary activities as researchers, is more difficult to examine in hindsight than their “Sunday” speech (the codes of conduct examined in “Pride and Prejudice”). Although correspondences are a promising type of source material, they cannot easily be compared across time and disciplines. While referee reports don’t have this disadvantage, their availability is scarce – Nature doesn’t even have an editorial archive – while their accessibility is restricted, especially for recent decades.

The project tackles these problems by zooming in on scholarly book reviews: a genre practiced across the 20th century and across the academic spectrum, although with more intensity in some fields than in others, given the different value attached to publications in book form. The principal source for this sub-project is the journal Science (1880), which broadly covers the life and natural sciences, to which The American Journal of Sociology (1895) and The American Historical Review (1895) are added for the sake of including social science and humanities perspectives.

Focusing on four benchmark years (1900, 1933, 1967, 2000), this project examines the book reviews published in these journals with an eye to assessing the prevalence and relative importance of language of vice. What evaluative languages (errors, mistakes, vices, etc.) did book reviewers employ? To what extent and on what occasions did they invoke early modern vices? And to what extent did this differ across fields or change over the course of the century?

Contact: Herman Paul.

3

Hodegetics: Language of Vice in Student Advice Literature, 1700-1900

This project analyzes to what extent hodegetical textbooks relied on each other in warning their readers against vicious habits, how much continuity their catalogs of vice displayed, and to what extent vices that persisted throughout the 18th and 19th centuries were associated with easy-to-remember commonplaces (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”), anecdotes (absent-minded professors), or stereotypical images (dogmatic scholasticism).

In the German lands, an unbroken tradition of student advice literature known as Hodegetik existed from the late 17th to the late 19th century. It offered encyclopedic surveys of the fields of knowledge, while also teaching first-year students how to develop studious habits. Given the popularity of hodegetical courses, especially in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and the wide circulation of hodegetical textbooks, many 19th-century scholars in Europe must have been at least moderately familiar with the hodegetical tradition.

Drawing on a corpus of hodegetical textbooks varying from H. A. Mertens’s Hodegetischer Entwurf (1779) to K. H. Scheidler’s often reprinted Grundlinien der Hodegetik (1832), this project analyzes to what extent these textbooks relied on each other in warning their readers against vicious habits, how much continuity their catalogs of vice displayed, and to what extent vices that persisted throughout the 18th and 19th centuries were associated with easy-to-remember commonplaces (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”), anecdotes (absent-minded professors), or stereotypical images (dogmatic scholasticism).

Contact: Anne Por.

 

A soon-to-be student – who is leaving home for university – is being urged to live and study well. By the engraver Johann Georg Puschner (alias Dendrono) as part of a series called „Natürliche Abschilderung des academischen Lebens in gegenwärtigen Vierzehn schönen Figuren", ca. 1725. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
14th-century image of a university lecture, by Italian painter Laurentius de Voltolina. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
4

The Dark Middle Ages: Language of Vice in Histories of Science, 1700-1900

In comparing a selection of 18th-century histories to a representative sample of 19th-century histories of science, this project inquires: Which early modern vices persisted into the 19th century and to what extent were those vices embodied in anecdotes, conveyed through commonplaces, or symbolically represented in stereotypical images?

Preliminary research reveals that emblematic stories about vice such as codified in William Whewell’s History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) found their way into countless 19th- and 20th-century histories of science. This is true not only for Whewell’s image of the dark Middle Ages – the “barren period, which intervened between the scientific activity of ancient Greece, and that of modern Europe” – but also for anecdotes such as Vergilius of Salzburg being censured by Pope Zachary and Galileo being condemned by the Inquisition.

Whewell in turn borrowed these story elements from Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, just as his “emplotment” of the history of science as a gradual triumph of virtue over vice was indebted, more generally, to 18th-century histories of science, dictionaries of arts and science, and historia literaria.

In comparing a selection of 18th-century histories to a representative sample of 19th-century histories of science, this project inquires: Which early modern vices persisted into the 19th century and to what extent were those vices embodied in anecdotes, conveyed through commonplaces, or symbolically represented in stereotypical images?

Contact: Hidde Slotboom.

 

5

Idols of the Mind: Modern Variations on a Baconian Theme, 1800-2000

Drawing on a broad array of sources, this project examines modern retrievals of Bacon’s idols, thereby testing Justus von Liebig’s intriguing observation, back in 1863, that Bacon’s name lived on mainly in mottos or stereotypical phrases. More importantly, it examines the rhetorical purposes served by these phrases. To what extent did the classic status of Bacon’s idola add rhetorical power to epistemological criticism of “flawed,” “biased,” or “impure” scholarship?

Although “Baconianism” was initially synonymous with inductive methods of a kind regarded as constitutive of British empiricism, Bacon’s idola mentis – idols of the tribe, cave, marketplace, and theater – began to attract major attention only when inductivism lost its epistemic authority under the influence of, mainly, Hume and Stuart Mill. They were picked up by a broad range of 19th- and early 20th-century thinkers, including Alexander Herzen, Thomas Huxley, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, John Dewey, and Max Scheler.

Why did these mostly anti-positivist critics hark back to Bacon’s idols, despite “Baconianism” increasingly being associated with epistemic naivety? From where did they derive this commonplace and why was it attractive to them? Drawing on a broad array of sources, this project examines modern retrievals of Bacon’s idols, thereby testing Justus von Liebig’s intriguing observation, back in 1863, that Bacon’s name lived on mainly in mottos or stereotypical phrases. More importantly, it examines the rhetorical purposes served by these phrases. To what extent did the classic status of Bacon’s idola add rhetorical power to epistemological criticism of “flawed,” “biased,” or “impure” scholarship?

Contact: Edurne De Wilde.

 

text
Portrait of Francis Bacon. From the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Kant
Portrait of Immanuel Kant, about 1790. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
6

Scholarly Dogmatism: A Rhetorical History, 1800-2000

This project traces how, why, and under what circumstances scholars invoked the trope of “dogmatism,” especially in controversies. Relevant controversies from various fields, periods, and countries will be subjected to in-depth rhetorical analysis.

Although the history of dogmatism is usually framed in epistemological terms, as ranging from Glanvill’s criticism of Hobbes to Locke, Hume, and Kant, the history of dogmatism as “a weapon of offence” (as F. R. Leavis once put it) can also be written from a rhetorical point of view, with particular attention to the historical connotations invoked by the term.

Why was dogmatism so often presented as a “relapse” (Rückfall) into pre-critical thinking? Was dogmatism, notwithstanding Thomas Kuhn’s attempt at rehabilitation, an effective charge mainly because it relegated opponents to a superseded stage in the development of science? And why was dogmatism often associated with phrases such as Glanvill’s “vanity of dogmatizing,” Kant’s “dogmatic slumber,” and Huxley’s “history records that whenever science and dogmatism have been fairly opposed, the latter has been forced to retire from the lists, bleeding and crushed”?

This project traces how, why, and under what circumstances scholars invoked the trope of “dogmatism,” especially in controversies. Relevant controversies from various fields, periods, and countries will be subjected to in-depth rhetorical analysis.

Contact: Alexander Stöger.

Subprojects

AMA code of medical ethics, 1847
1

Pride and Prejudice: Moral Languages in Scholarly Codes of Conduct, 1900-2000​

If idioms employed in codes of conduct could be as idiosyncratic as examples suggest, then to what extent did early modern language of vice, too, persist in this genre?

Commenting on the five revisions (1903, 1912, 1947, 1957, 1980) made to the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics (1847), Albert Jonsen observes that even the newest version of the code “remained a compendium of the traditional deontology, decorum, and politic ethics.” Likewise, The Chemist’s Creed, adopted by the American Chemical Association in 1965, creatively combined “honor” and “virtue” with “interest” and “duty,” just as the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (1987) used an amalgam of “rules,” “values,” and “virtues” to describe the historian’s moral responsibilities. If idioms employed in codes of conduct could be as idiosyncratic as these examples suggest, then to what extent did early modern language of vice, too, persist in this genre?

The project addresses this question on the basis of some one hundred scholarly codes of ethics, varying from the electrical engineers’ Code of Ethics (1907) and the Code of Ethics for Scientific Men (1927) issued by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the Association of Social Science Researchers’ Code of Ethics (1996). They are all available in the Ethics Code Collection (ECC) – the world’s largest online repository of codes of conduct, maintained by the Illinois Institute of Technology (http://ethics.iit.edu/ecodes). In assessing the prevalence and relative prominence of language of vice, the project pays special attention to the intertextuality (i.e., the textual dependency relations) within the genre.

Contact: Herman Paul.

Books, 2018, photo taken by Vincente. Picture licensed under the terms of the bb-by-nc-nd-2.0 and retrieved from Flickr. No changes were made to the photo.
2

Falling Short of Expectations: Evaluative Languages in Scholarly Book Reviews, 1900-2000

What evaluative languages (errors, mistakes, vices, etc.) did book reviewers employ? To what extent and on what occasions did they invoke early modern vices? And to what extent did this differ across fields or change over the course of the century?

How scholars talked on “Monday,” that is, in their ordinary activities as researchers, is more difficult to examine in hindsight than their “Sunday” speech (the codes of conduct examined in “Pride and Prejudice”). Although correspondences are a promising type of source material, they cannot easily be compared across time and disciplines. While referee reports don’t have this disadvantage, their availability is scarce – Nature doesn’t even have an editorial archive – while their accessibility is restricted, especially for recent decades.

The project tackles these problems by zooming in on scholarly book reviews: a genre practiced across the 20th century and across the academic spectrum, although with more intensity in some fields than in others, given the different value attached to publications in book form. The principal source for this sub-project is the journal Science (1880), which broadly covers the life and natural sciences, to which The American Journal of Sociology (1895) and The American Historical Review (1895) are added for the sake of including social science and humanities perspectives.

Focusing on four benchmark years (1900, 1933, 1967, 2000), this project examines the book reviews published in these journals with an eye to assessing the prevalence and relative importance of language of vice. What evaluative languages (errors, mistakes, vices, etc.) did book reviewers employ? To what extent and on what occasions did they invoke early modern vices? And to what extent did this differ across fields or change over the course of the century?

Contact: Herman Paul.

A soon-to-be student – who is leaving home for university – is being urged to live and study well. By the engraver Johann Georg Puschner (alias Dendrono) as part of a series called „Natürliche Abschilderung des academischen Lebens in gegenwärtigen Vierzehn schönen Figuren", ca. 1725. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
3

Hodegetics: Language of Vice in Student Advice Literature, 1700-1900​

This project analyzes to what extent hodegetical textbooks relied on each other in warning their readers against vicious habits, how much continuity their catalogs of vice displayed, and to what extent vices that persisted throughout the 18th and 19th centuries were associated with easy-to-remember commonplaces (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”), anecdotes (absent-minded professors), or stereotypical images (dogmatic scholasticism).

In the German lands, an unbroken tradition of student advice literature known as Hodegetik existed from the late 17th to the late 19th century. It offered encyclopedic surveys of the fields of knowledge, while also teaching first-year students how to develop studious habits. Given the popularity of hodegetical courses, especially in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and the wide circulation of hodegetical textbooks, many 19th-century scholars in Europe must have been at least moderately familiar with the hodegetical tradition.

Drawing on a corpus of hodegetical textbooks varying from H. A. Mertens’s Hodegetischer Entwurf (1779) to K. H. Scheidler’s often reprinted Grundlinien der Hodegetik (1832), this project analyzes to what extent these textbooks relied on each other in warning their readers against vicious habits, how much continuity their catalogs of vice displayed, and to what extent vices that persisted throughout the 18th and 19th centuries were associated with easy-to-remember commonplaces (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”), anecdotes (absent-minded professors), or stereotypical images (dogmatic scholasticism).

Contact: Anne Por.

14th-century image of a university lecture, by Italian painter Laurentius de Voltolina. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
4

The Dark Middle Ages: Language of Vice in Histories of Science, 1700-1900​

In comparing a selection of 18th-century histories to a representative sample of 19th-century histories of science, this project inquires: Which early modern vices persisted into the 19th century and to what extent were those vices embodied in anecdotes, conveyed through commonplaces, or symbolically represented in stereotypical images?

Preliminary research reveals that emblematic stories about vice such as codified in William Whewell’s History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) found their way into countless 19th- and 20th-century histories of science. This is true not only for Whewell’s image of the dark Middle Ages – the “barren period, which intervened between the scientific activity of ancient Greece, and that of modern Europe” – but also for anecdotes such as Vergilius of Salzburg being censured by Pope Zachary and Galileo being condemned by the Inquisition.

Whewell in turn borrowed these story elements from Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, just as his “emplotment” of the history of science as a gradual triumph of virtue over vice was indebted, more generally, to 18th-century histories of science, dictionaries of arts and science, and historia literaria.

In comparing a selection of 18th-century histories to a representative sample of 19th-century histories of science, this project inquires: Which early modern vices persisted into the 19th century and to what extent were those vices embodied in anecdotes, conveyed through commonplaces, or symbolically represented in stereotypical images?

Contact: Hidde Slotboom.

text
Portrait of Francis Bacon. From the National Portrait Gallery, London.
5

Idols of the Mind: Modern Variations on a Baconian Theme, 1800-2000

Drawing on a broad array of sources, this project examines modern retrievals of Bacon’s idols, thereby testing Justus von Liebig’s intriguing observation, back in 1863, that Bacon’s name lived on mainly in mottos or stereotypical phrases. More importantly, it examines the rhetorical purposes served by these phrases. To what extent did the classic status of Bacon’s idola add rhetorical power to epistemological criticism of “flawed,” “biased,” or “impure” scholarship?

Although “Baconianism” was initially synonymous with inductive methods of a kind regarded as constitutive of British empiricism, Bacon’s idola mentis – idols of the tribe, cave, marketplace, and theater – began to attract major attention only when inductivism lost its epistemic authority under the influence of, mainly, Hume and Stuart Mill. They were picked up by a broad range of 19th- and early 20th-century thinkers, including Alexander Herzen, Thomas Huxley, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, John Dewey, and Max Scheler.

Why did these mostly anti-positivist critics hark back to Bacon’s idols, despite “Baconianism” increasingly being associated with epistemic naivety? From where did they derive this commonplace and why was it attractive to them? Drawing on a broad array of sources, this project examines modern retrievals of Bacon’s idols, thereby testing Justus von Liebig’s intriguing observation, back in 1863, that Bacon’s name lived on mainly in mottos or stereotypical phrases. More importantly, it examines the rhetorical purposes served by these phrases. To what extent did the classic status of Bacon’s idola add rhetorical power to epistemological criticism of “flawed,” “biased,” or “impure” scholarship?

Contact: Edurne De Wilde.

Portrait of Immanuel Kant, about 1790. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
6

Scholarly Dogmatism: A Rhetorical History, 1800-2000

This project traces how, why, and under what circumstances scholars invoked the trope of “dogmatism,” especially in controversies. Relevant controversies from various fields, periods, and countries will be subjected to in-depth rhetorical analysis.

Although the history of dogmatism is usually framed in epistemological terms, as ranging from Glanvill’s criticism of Hobbes to Locke, Hume, and Kant, the history of dogmatism as “a weapon of offence” (as F. R. Leavis once put it) can also be written from a rhetorical point of view, with particular attention to the historical connotations invoked by the term.

Why was dogmatism so often presented as a “relapse” (Rückfall) into pre-critical thinking? Was dogmatism, notwithstanding Thomas Kuhn’s attempt at rehabilitation, an effective charge mainly because it relegated opponents to a superseded stage in the development of science? And why was dogmatism often associated with phrases such as Glanvill’s “vanity of dogmatizing,” Kant’s “dogmatic slumber,” and Huxley’s “history records that whenever science and dogmatism have been fairly opposed, the latter has been forced to retire from the lists, bleeding and crushed”?

This project traces how, why, and under what circumstances scholars invoked the trope of “dogmatism,” especially in controversies. Relevant controversies from various fields, periods, and countries will be subjected to in-depth rhetorical analysis.

Contact: Alexander Stöger.