Saturday, March 23, 2019


Measuring the Merits of a Scholar

Bernard Lewis (1916-2018), Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian (New York: Viking: 2012), p. 273:
Unfortunately, the merits of a scholar are measured by publications, and the merits of these publications are measured by their bulk. This is perhaps inevitable when decisions are made by committees of experts who do not read, or if they read, do not understand, the works of those who come before them for judgment. This development has coincided—I think coincided is the right word—with the neocolonial expansion of the social sciences into whole areas, indeed continents, which were once peacefully cultivated by philologists and historians, and with the increasing use of techniques of research and exposition which are at once extravagant and arcane. This has often meant that works are unread because they are unreadable, uncomprehended because they are incomprehensible. Both qualities are believed to conceal vast learning and great profundity.

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