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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Toujours l'audace? Peut-etre non.

A commenter writes, a propos Dan's post about possible gender bias at law reviews (a question I don't take up here):

[E]ven if it turns out that women are less prone to audacious scholarship than men, what possible bearing should that have on whether the academy prefers audacious scholarship? if people with brown hair are more audacious cooks than people with blond hair, should we denigrate audacious cooking because of it?

That comment of course raises the question whether we should prefer "audacious" scholarship in the first place.  Audacity is one element, and far from the only one, that characterizes some great scholarship.  It is, I would suggest, much less present in most good scholarship.  More importantly, it also happens to be present in much lousy scholarship.  If editors select for audacity as opposed to solidity, particularly given their understandable experience-based difficulties in separating wheat from chaff, aren't they also increasing the likelihood of publishing work whose claims are ultimately false, unfounded, and/or already disproven -- whose "audacity" is really a form of braggadocio and puffery? 

Here, the obligatory cite is to Daniel Farber's articles on the perils of "brilliance" in legal scholarship, which are always worth reading.... 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on August 20, 2008 at 11:39 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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Just a clarification - in the article, "audacious" refers to what it takes to get published in elite journals, not to the quality of the scholarship. I think I better say this in the abstract - thanks.

Posted by: Minna Kotkin | Aug 21, 2008 8:02:50 AM

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