Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Nature of Academic Conferences

Stanley Fish has a nice column in today's New York Times (here) about the nature of the academic enterprise. His main claim, with which I agree, is that the primary purpose of academic work and meetings is not to derive normative conclusions with direct relevance for policy, but to ask and argue about big issues outside of the policy-making pressure cooker.

Fish explains that a conference he recently attended on "originalism" in constitutional interpretation was a success, not because it resolved substantive problems in the world, but because "a set of intellectual problems had been tossed around and teased out by men and women at the top of their game," who " were more than willing to do the hard work involved in trying to get things straight." They were "willing and eager, that is, to do academic work."

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