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Authority arguments

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  • David Inglis
    Bruce wrote: This is an authority argument, and authority arguments are not allowed. Names cannot generate facts or validate conclusions. Only evidence does
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 12, 2011
      Bruce wrote: This is an authority argument, and authority arguments are not allowed. Names cannot generate facts or
      validate conclusions. Only evidence does that, and we need not to take the step back from the evidence that authority
      arguments always involve. We need to keep our noses closer to the mire. With whatever help we can get from those who
      have been there longer, or are somehow seeing it clearer.

      Bruce, I'm not sure exactly what you are saying here. For example, given my interests, how would you apply this to
      Tertullian and Epiphanius? Should we basically trust what they say about what was or was not in Marcion's gospel and
      Paulines, but then ignore (or perhaps treat with great suspicion) what they say about how those differences came about,
      for which (as far as I'm aware) they actually have no evidence, and for example can only guess at Marcion's motives for
      including (or not) particular words, phrases, lines, etc?

      On a related subject, this brings up the issue of "assured results," of which in biblical analysis there seem to be very
      few. For example, I very much like what Bob Waltz says here: http://www.skypoint.com/members/waltzmn/AssuredResults.html
      .

      David Inglis, Lafayette, CA, 94549, USA







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    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: GPG On: Authority Arguments From: Bruce David Inglis has asked for a clarification of authority arguments, and thus on their prohibition here. Fair
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 12, 2011
        To: GPG

        On: Authority Arguments

        From: Bruce



        David Inglis has asked for a clarification of "authority arguments," and
        thus on their prohibition here. Fair enough, since that term evolved in the
        early days of the parent WSW Sinological list (back in a now remote
        century), and has not been as fully exposed in the more recent GPG
        discussion group, the NT stepchild.



        http://www.umass.edu/wsp/reference/conventions/rules.html



        An authority argument is any statement of the form: Because X says so, it
        must be so. X may be a modern scholar, or an ancient historian like Szma
        Chyen. And who, pray tell, is Szma Chyen? Szma Chyen is incorrectly supposed
        to have written the Shr Ji, a famous Chinese book. On the assumption that he
        did write that book, which is regarded as the prime source for information
        about pre-Imperial China, in Chinese discourse at the present time it is
        mandatory to refer to him as "the great historian Szma Chyen" (in the
        original: Da lishrjya Szma Chyen); this is almost a matter of correct
        grammar, like a fixed Homeric phrase. The devotion of modern individuals to
        their Doktorvater (itself already a term of inappropriate obeisance) is a
        comparable mistake.



        Nothing, including war and pestilence, has so slowed the progress of Chinese
        studies of China as this extreme reverence for the teacher's words. Take the
        case of the Harvard Mongolist Francis Cleaves, who regarded the Chinese
        scholar William Hung (who occupied a token post at Harvard when I knew both
        of them) as in some sense his teacher. Francis had completed a translation
        of the Secret History of the Mongols, from the Mongol original, which was
        not routinely available to Chinese-only Sinologists, but refused to publish
        it since at some points he had differed from William Hung's opinion. Finally
        William died, and Francis then felt free to publish without what he
        considered would have been an impropriety. By that time, his translation,
        which would have been of much use to scholarship if published promptly, had
        lost much of its value: Haenisch, among others, had filled the gap (a gap
        left also by Francis's revered teacher, Pelliot:



        http://www.umass.edu/wsp/sinology/persons/haenisch.html



        Disciple and master had both been superseded. And served them right. The one
        should not have exacted, nor the other rendered, that kind of homage.



        The whole affair is a caricature of what scholarship should be doing. But
        not a unique one:



        A Chinese lecturer (and I speak as one who has been in the classes of
        Chinese lecturers) will not only demand that students take notes on their
        ipsissima verba, they will periodically collect and examine the notes
        ("nim'n biji"), to be sure that they are accurate records.



        In Japan, it is not uncommon for the words of the teacher themselves not to
        be known until after the teacher's death (Japanese lectures are famously
        noncommittal as to the sources, and even as to the conclusions, of the
        argument). At that time, his ranking disciples will collect them and
        published them in a suitable Complete Works (Zenshu). Meanwhile, the years
        pass.



        THE WAY OUT



        The irascible philosopher Sywndz (mid 03c) is of no help in this matter, but
        some later member of his school added, in a prefatory chapter to Sywndz's
        Zenshu, this image: "The blue [dye] comes from the [green] indigo [plant],
        but it is bluer than the indigo." This is universally taken as an injunction
        for the student to surpass the teacher. And somewhat before that, a later
        master had made "Confucius" say, "To make a mistake and not correct it; that
        is the real mistake."



        And I care not a fig who corrects it: the master himself in a moment of
        later clarity, a disciple, some passerby. Progress consists in correcting
        mistakes. I put my own stuff out to be corrected, and assume that other
        contributions to the GPG list are made in the same spirit. If not, well,
        there are other E-lists to pontificate on, or people can set up their own
        blog for the purpose.



        NT



        What would be the NT parallel to an authority argument? It might go as far
        back as this: Because Luke reports this as a saying of Jesus, Jesus must
        really have said it. I can hardly pick up a book from the L shelf without
        running into that.



        But Luke, properly considered, merely offers his logia of Jesus (along with
        some narrative padding) for our consideration and judgement. He is
        interestingly situated to do so, and I am always glad to hear from an
        Antioch man. But his say-so does not end the matter. It begins the matter,
        and the matter consists in examining his claim to see what it may amount to
        (Jesus's ipsissima, early Church preaching of a distinctively low-budget
        sort, some scribal error, whatever). The fact of Lukan sponsorship does not
        relieve us of the necessity of judging what, at any given point, Lukan
        sponsorship may be worth. If we can do that, fine; we have to that extent
        added to the collective understanding; if not, well, there are plenty of
        others to come forward. No one now living has the last word, or should have
        the last word, on these questions.



        Bruce



        I don't wish to give the impression that the Asiatics have any monopoly on
        this madness. For a really deplorable (and I mean, *really* deplorable) New
        World example, see Richard P Feynman, Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman,
        p211-219.



        http://v.cx/2010/04/feynman-brazil-education.html



        [PS: David unintentionally copied his note to Synoptic, and to prevent
        puzzlement there, I guess I should do likewise, throwing in WSW as well,
        while I am at it, just for old times' sake.



        E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts at Amherst]





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      • David Inglis
        Interestingly, the latest copy of the Economist (Sep 10th-16th), which arrived in the mail today, contains an account of an authority problem (Science and
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 12, 2011
          Interestingly, the latest copy of the Economist (Sep 10th-16th), which arrived in the mail today, contains an account of
          an 'authority' problem (Science and Technology, An array of errors, p91-92, at least in my copy). It provides an example
          of something that I suspect is quite common (although I cannot provide direct evidence): Once a journal has published a
          paper, that journal then exhibits a bias against criticisms of the paper. Even if the journal does not realize it, I
          think that once its review panel has accepted a paper for publication, it is then harder for the review panel to, in
          effect, criticize their own decision, by accepting for publication something questioning the contents of the original
          paper, whatever the merits of the questions themselves. I'd be interested in hearing about any evidence either for or
          against, e.g. has this actually ever been studied?

          David Inglis, Lafayette, CA, 94549, USA





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