Mimesis and Perjury

A tidal wave of intellectual, and sometimes financial, fraud is hanging above the happy tropical village of American academia, threatening to crash down on it and sweep it away into the off-shore reefs. The danger has a distinctly different appearance if observed from the Olympian heights where physical scientists view the approaching storm with Lucretian calm, or from the bustling lowlands where the busy teacher of humanities courses scurries to and fro, lecturing to a crowded classroom here, grading the papers from his senior seminar there, in his spare moments scribbling out his notions for an academic journal.

The physical scientist, who in America will allow to no other the name of "scientist," sees the end of his reign as the only true scholar, a reign that began in the 17th century and, with the support of the Enlightenment Project, itself drawing to its close, exercised ever more power until the explosion in numbers, wealth, and prestige that followed the Second World War. His claim to objectivity and to a unique vision of the world, to possession of the key that opens the door to technology and wealth, is under assault from many directions, grim-mouthed feminists, giddy Nietzscheans, solemn votaries of Gadamer. These would perhaps have little influence without the growing evidence of fraud in the temple of Holy Science.

The plight of the humanities may be even more desperate. A few years ago, Rene Girard...

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