Friday, 13 December 2019

Reflections on the Papineau Case

I would like at this time - various personal factors having propitiously come into alignment - to commit to writing some reflections occasioned by the recent case of Papineau's error (covered on this website but, alas, not others).

I have many feelings about this. For one, how could so great a man as Papineau - and let's face it, he is a man - ignore what must come to him as important news about an error he has committed in writing, for a top academic journal at that? It must be that he does not yet know about it. Far be it from me to enlist my dear readers as mercenaries. Please do not bother him. But it does bother me nonetheless.

Another issue raised by the whole brouhaha is that copy editing has fallen to a barbarous level.

(For background, at this point I think I should inform any readers who are just tuning in that Papineau's error consisted in writing 'Let me put me cards on the table' (my emphasis) when he should have written, presumably (we have no way of knowing for certain what his intentions were - unless of course he decides to break his silence), 'Let me put my cards on the table' (again, my emphasis; far be it from me to suggest that he ought to have emphasised that the proverbial cards were his). Images of the error have been supplied in other posts. It would be tiresome for me to go and copy them and then paste them into the present post, so I ask the reader to look up the relevant posts and view the images for himself or, indeed, herself, for I welcome my woman readers as well as the men and boys.)

The above parenthetical remark having been made, let me explain why the failure of copy-editing is especially telling of our age. Note that the offending word is, despite its having no business being used in that context, nevertheless a proper word. This is a very important point. It is important because a standard spell checking piece of software would be unable to detect this error.

But an error it is, and an error it remains (there has still been no correction, despite another correction to the paper having been issued - see a previous post for my reflections on this matter).

This shows in sharp relief how it is not enough to use computers. We living, breathing scholars of the humanities are able to see the problem with Papineau's output, and it is glaring, despite the offending word being a perfectly good word in its own right ('though, admittedly, not in the context in which it appears there).

This has now spawned many further reflections on the use and misuse of computers, but this post has grown far beyond the tentative bounds I set for it in my mind's eye when I sat down to write. This is a thread I may take up on another occasion, but the Papineau affair is a sprawling beast, and there may be more important aspects of it to discuss. Stay tuned - I know there are other issues in the profession and with out intellectual culture at the moment, but I will in all honestly probably be pursuing this matter almost exclusively for the foreseeable future.
pp 1–22Cite as

The disvalue of knowledge Export more entries in formatted text to add them to this list.

Papineau, David (forthcoming). The disvalue of knowledge. Synthese:1-22.
  • David PapineauEmail author
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Epistemic Rationality
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