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THE IDEAL OF INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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THE IDEAL OF INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY. Susan Haack. focus here is on intellectual integrity -- vital to the life of the mind .

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THE IDEAL OF INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY

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The ideal of intellectual integrity l.jpg

THE IDEAL OF INTELLECTUAL INTEGRITY

Susan Haack


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focus here is on intellectual integrity -- vital to the life of the mind


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“We presume, on the part of those who follow any scientific [intellectual] vocation, a sort of tacit oath never to subordinate the motive of objective truth-seeking to any subjective preference or inclination or any expediency or opportunistic consideration” -- C. I. Lewis


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… it is [the] business [of education] to cultivate deep-seated and effective habits of discriminating tested beliefs from mere assertions, guesses, and opinions; to develop a lively, sincere, and open-minded preference for conclusions that are properly grounded … -- John Dewey


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meanings of “integrity”…

  • the word derives from from the Latin “in” and “tangere” = “untouched”

  • in Portuguese, still means “virginity,” as it still does in Spanish -- with respect to the Virgin Mary


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  • … as it once did in English; but now it means:

  • “undivided, whole complete, uncorrupted, soundness of moral principle, esp. with respect to truth and fair dealing” – OED

  • “completeness, unity, firm adherence to values” – Webster’s


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  • … I will look at integrity in the sense of “firm adherence to values”

  • and will focus primarily on epistemic values

  • the values at the heart of inquiry generally, and scientific inquiry specifically


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from the perspective of an individual

where it has to do with respect for evidence

and avoiding self-deception

from a social perspective

where it has to do with what environments encourage, and what discourage, such respect

… there are two ways to approach it


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1. The Individual Perspective


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… intellectual integrity has been has been explored by novelists such as Samuel Butler

… who paints a fine picture of hypocrisy and self-deception in his semi-autobiographical Bildungsroman,The Way of All Flesh (1903)


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and by thinkers like physicist Percy Bridgman

who in 1933 wrote of “the struggle for intellectual integrity,” and the role of scientists in that struggle … noting that “animals and morons” do not respond to this ideal


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  • intellectual integrity is an ideal

  • to which humans are capable of responding emotionally, as to music

  • which some approach more closely than others, perhaps only after hard experience and failure


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  • it should not be confused with simple consistency in belief

  • which can indeed be, as Emerson said, “the hobgoblin of little minds”

  • but has to do with one’s relation to evidence


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  • it involves, first, being prepared to give up a belief, even a core belief, if the evidence turns out against it

  • but also not being too quick to drop a belief when the evidence is ambiguous


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  • a bit like the modest version of Popper’s falsificationist methodology

  • (he has confused a requirement on every honest inquirer with a criterion of the scientific)


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  • but intellectual integrity also requires:

  • preparedness to go and look for more evidence when you don’t have enough to form an opinion;

  • readiness to admit you were wrong, or just don’t know; and


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  • not deceiving yourself about how good your evidence is, or where it leads

but self-deception is a puzzling phenomenon … how do we do it?


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  • you can deceive others by lying, but also by misdirection

  • misdirection is also what we do when we deceive ourselves – selective attention


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  • e.g., look only where you expect to find positive evidence

  • pay as little attention as possible to negative evidence – if possible, forget it!


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Darwin kept a special notebook for things he couldn’t explain – because otherwise he was bound to forget them!


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2. The Social Perspective


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a good environment for intellectual integrity requires …

  • encouragement and incentives for honest work

  • good examples for “apprentices”

  • disincentives to cheating and corner-cutting


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… but the preposterism now endemic in universities pulls against it

“Valuing knowledge, we say, ‘everyone must produce written research in order to live, and this shall be deemed a knowledge explosion’” --- Jacques Barzun

… a pre-posterous idea!


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among the consequences …

  • pressure to publish too much and too fast (and to assume all publications are worthwhile)

  • pressure to get grants (and to report success when work is completed)


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Oswald Avery, who published nothing for 10 years before he made his breakthrough on DNA, would never survive today!


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  • pressure to reach these or those results

  • often the result of the competing interests – other than truth-seeking

  • from the governments or commercial enterprises that support research, especially scientific research, in universities


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… for example, in the medical sciences

  • “salami publishing”

  • multiple authorship, leaving responsibility unclear

  • ghost writing


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  • faculty stockholdings or other involvement with drug companies, etc.

  • journals dependent on drug company advertising revenues


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  • selective publishing of favorable results

  • continued citation of retracted work

  • excessive strain on the peer review system


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but the problem is ubiquitous in the academy…

  • getting a grant to do research becomes an end in itself

  • becoming more important than any actual work done

  • and skews what work is done, and how


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  • journals are clogged with ephemeral articles by those who must publish to get a job/tenure/promotion

  • making it close to impossible to find the good stuff


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  • work is judged by where it is published, not by its quality

  • there is a premium on speed, quantity and trendiness

  • so that we forget that the most important conditions for good work in fields like philosophy are, simply, time and peace of mind


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  • creating an atmosphere of “lying and self-congratulatory hallucination” among those who succumb to the preposterous culture

  • and paralyzing others, who might otherwise do good work at their own pace


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thank you for your attention

gracias por vuestra atención


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