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Induced Inconcinnities

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GPG Cc: Synoptic, WSW On: Induced Inconcinnities From: Bruce It is sometimes asked, with more or less extravagant metaphors, why would an author go back to
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2009
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      To: GPG
      Cc: Synoptic, WSW
      On: Induced Inconcinnities
      From: Bruce

      It is sometimes asked, with more or less extravagant metaphors, why would an
      author go back to his previous work and add material in such a way as to
      produce inconcinnities with the previous material? The answer, previously
      given and I think still sufficient, is that *at that moment* the author,
      though not a nut and not a nincompoop, is more concerned for the force of
      his addition than for the symmetry of his previous work. It's a question of
      focus, and indeed of priority.

      I think that will cover it. But it is sometimes amusing to experience that
      imaginary author's feeling oneself, and this I think I may have done in the
      last couple hours.

      I have a paper which I thought I had finished, but which further scrutiny
      convinced me needed additional information. Which I put in, but then I had
      to take something out to keep that page in balance. OK, so I did that. Then
      in the course of scanning the revised version, I noticed a discontinuity in
      the added material, so immediately on finishing the scan I fixed that spot,
      printed out the paper again, and rescanned it. Then an hour later while
      final editing a colleague's contribution to the same journal, I was
      reminded, Well, this reinforces the previous point, but I will have to add a
      note to the previous paper pointing it out. So back to the other computer,
      and another printout, and another scan. So it went through the wee hours. By
      4:30, or just moments ago, I found yet another statement in that same paper
      that needed clarifying, and back I went through the same process. But by
      this time, partly from the blur of successive changes, and partly perhaps
      from simple fatigue, I no longer had a confident sense of the continuity of
      the argument in that paper, and felt incapable of reading it through again
      to see if it was decently consecutive.

      I was just about to get on the horn and say, Al, will you please read this
      through for me, because I am no longer capable of doing so myself?

      When I realized, Hey, perhaps there is some accretional text moral in here
      somewhere. Not that the author of Luke (shall we say) made his changes that
      rapidly, but perhaps the lapse of a few months since the previous version is
      just as effective as the flurry of a few minutes, in producing uncertainty
      and loss of focus in an otherwise sane and rational author.

      Submitted in pursuance of that possibility,

      Bruce

      [E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst]
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