Philosophy as fraud

This article discusses whether you have to cite your sources:

But don’t get confused by this romantic description of the philosophical work: if someone is recognized as a philosopher only by the new concepts that he has introduced into the philosophical discourse [D&G], and if new and original are nothing but an illusion [Barthes], then philosophy is not the art of creating concepts but rather the art of rebranding preexisting concepts. The philosopher doesn’t have much choice but to refurbish and rebrand old concepts and present them as original ones.

This is a tough situation: if you don’t quote you are accused of plagiarism and of the hubris of being original; if you quote (explicitly – by referring to philosophers; implicitly – by reusing known concepts) you’re accused of not being original, hence – not a philosopher. The game is, therefore, to quote all along your thesis until that point where you bring up your own rebranded (yet necessarily preexisting) concept – that which you present and pretend to be your own.

I think the author gets himself into difficulties here because he seems to promote deceptive scholarship (“The philosopher doesn’t have much choice but to refurbish and rebrand old concepts and present them as original ones”), but it does raise once again the theme of citations, “the footnotes” and historical accuracy that earlier posts here have been concerned with.

2 Responses

  1. Some interesting posts on historiography, Jeremy. The Scull piece seems, as you indicate, to have created quite a stir in the online Foucault community! It isn’t just La Folie that comes in for criticism on the score of historiographical accuracy, though. I’ve just finished reading Timother O’Leary’s Foucault and the Art of Ethics, and there’s a really good discussion of how Foucault ‘aestheticizes’ the ancient sources on ethics that he uses in the 2nd and 3rd volumes of the History of Sexuality project (that is, that they are not anywhere near as concerned with an aesthetics of the self as Foucault has us believe, and that he has read these concerns back into the ancient Stoic texts). O’Leary’s is a sensitive discussion of how the historiographical limitations of Foucault’s readings (something he doesn’t dodge or gloss) needn’t necessarily take away from the use in the present to which Foucault’s genealogies can be put…
    Ben G

  2. […] explicit historical factual claims that are inaccurate; (B) matters of interpretation such as the comment below by Ben about over […]

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