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Originality and the pursuit of truth

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In an interesting interview, Les Green (Balliol College) says: I’m hostile to the pursuit of originality in legal philosophy—and also in most other areas of philosophy. By this I mean that one should not set out to say something new; one should set out to say something true. I’ve seen too many graduate students hobbled by the anxiety that their ideas are not original, even though they are very illuminating, and I’ve read far too many books where the only conceivable explanation for their curious doctrines is that they were written in order to be original. Of course, everyone’s work should be original in the sense that it should be authentically one’s own, not cribbed from the internet or stolen from your graduate students. But ‘originality’ in the sense of being unique, unprecedented etc. is something that should emerge, if at all, only as a by-product of the search for truth.  I think I agree with much of this in principle--particularly that philosophical originality should ideally emerge in pursuit of truth. I also think I've had the experience that Green alludes to here: of reading philosophical works that seem to me to seek originality for its own sake, arguably leading away from truth rather than toward it. Nevertheless, I have a very different attitude towards originality: I adore it, in part because of how skeptical generally am about the received 'truths' of any given time in philosophy, and in part because of how originality can unexpectedly lead to greater philosophical understanding later if, if not demonstrably truth (which, I hope we all know, is tantalizing elusive in most areas of philosophy). One of the general problems we face in science and in philosophy--in most ages--is that what seems true at any given time is largely determined by the "commonsense" of the era. The problem, though, is that commonsense at any given time--the things that people take to be philosophically or scientifically true. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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