Friday, 9 October 2009

what or who is a serious scholar?

what or who is a serious scholar? interesting question and interesting answer from OT scholar Niels (from biblical-studies list)


'...Sometimes we continental Europeans bang out heads against the difference between the meaning of "scholar" in the Anglo-Saxon world and the European "Wissenschaftler" -- somebody who provides new knowledge. "Scholar" has the taste of a passive knowledge -- a learned person, guarding his knowledge like a Faffner his treasure -- in many ways the same meaning as the German "Gelehrter" (I do not say that an Anglo-Saxon scholar will always be a passive "scholar" in this sense only, nor that a central European Wissenschaftler will always provide new knowledge). A Wissenschaftler is linked to Wissen, and has since the beginning of the modern university been engaged in the production of new knowledge. Here we get to another point: Science alias Wissenschaft is in my world not limited to natural science. A scientist is in the Anglo-Saxon world primarily engaged in providing new knowledge but is he automatically a scholar? Of course such distinctions are getting blurred now-a-days. And it is becoming more and more common to limit the term "Wissenschaftler" to the natural scientists only. A hundred years ago the historian Theodor Mommsen was awarded the Nobel-prize, in literature. This does not happen today. So it is more and more becoming the general opinion that scholars are handling "dead knowledge." Happily this is not the case but it takes some time to tell the public.

Ten years ago, as member of the University research council, I was asked by the chancellor to give an input on different categories of university "scholars." I mentioned three categories of "scholars": the top the ones who create new paradigms, the second group consisting of people who work on such paradigms and expand them, and a third group who does nothing of the kind but only transmits what other people have said. Any university should go for the first group and also accept the second but should scorn the third one. The third group will do as college (Gymnasium) teachers without obligation to do research. They might know as much as any Wissenschaftler but are not supposed to expand their knowledge by pointing at new ideas or venues. If they do, they automatically move into one of the first two groups.

Serious scholars as I define them belong to the first two groups...'

by Niels Peter Lemche


Alex Tang said...

since the nuance is on university 'scholars' I will agree with Niels' three categories. I will hasten to add a fourth category. Unlike the third (who does nothing of the kind but only transmits what other people have said), the fourth is totally ignorant of the latest scholarship, does not bother to read up and is totally dependent on what he/she had done in his/her advanced degree work a long time ago. One can discover these people from the date of their latest books in their course required reading list!

chils said...

Agree on fourth catergory!
As students we have also learnt who we cannot and can get away with, with 'old' Commentaries!