Intellectual Fraud

 Posted by on 4 March 2002 at 4:08 pm  Academia, Ethics, Honesty
Mar 042002

The fraudulent scholarship of Menchu, Bellesiles, and company is a rather interesting case study in the importance of honesty in professional life.

As Nathaniel Branden points out in his discussion of honesty in The Basic Principles of Objectivism, fraudulent scholarship brings about the very opposite of the desired ends. Intellectual frauds want their work to be noticed. Without notice, they will neither advance their cause nor become famous. Of course, by attempting to achieve these ends dishonestly, they risk damaging their cause and reputation. But actual detection is not their only problem.

The mere possibility of detection frustrates the lying scholar’s goals because popularity of his work engenders scrutiny. The very same attention to the ideas which motivated the original deception becomes a threat. The attention of other scholars must be avoided, because such attention risks exposure. Who doesn’t pose a threat? People too dumb to understand the ideas. People who are too lazy to investigate them. People who are too dishonesty to care whether they are true or not. What a pathetic crowd of admirers that would be!

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