errare humanum est
I picked up a copy of the book by chance the other day, and started reading it last night. Not that I’ve gotten very far enough to say anything about it, save that it is provoking:
Being wrong is also about being displaced, about wandering, dissenting, emigrating, and alienating. The professionalization of the scholar, and, in turn, the pose of the vernacular rhetorician and philologist, was a means by which émigrés, exiles, dissenters, and the socially estranged gained private worth and public legitimacy (2).
I like the idea that scholars and academics are displaced, are wanderers, are, in short, matter out of place, who can only become a part of society, be reclaimed by society, through professionalization — that is, the systematic acknowledgement of their perpetual displacement. This leads me back to the idea of pollution or ritual impurity; the polluted or the impure is ‘matter out of place,’ matter which does not fit into the cosmology of ritual and society. Education is the process of neutralizing this pollution; those most tainted are confined to the academy for their own safety and for the comfort of society. (Parallels might be prisons, insane asylums, religious institutions…) Only by being a ‘professional,’ by receiving accreditation, and working within a university or college does the scholar become less threatening, because jailed in obscure rules and arcane laws — empiricism, induction, positivism, deconstruction, etc. The institutions which cage the scholar serve society at large as the boundary posts for the empire of the known, beyond which lies the defining negative space of the unfathomable, of creativity, of genius, and of change.
What becomes of these outposts, though, when the empirical universe begins to shrink, once the pioneers begin to say, ‘thus far, and no further can knowledge go’? What happens when the barbarians, the grand ignorant, never appear and so cannot be defeated or contained? What then? More to the point, what does it matter, save to the out-of-place, to the polluted, the impure, (the ‘elite’) who will lose their sanctuary? I repeat: what then?