In his germinal text, Henry David Thoreau expressed a contradiction that is worth exploring in some detail. He declared: the "greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything it is very likely to be my good behavior." (Henry David Thoreau, Walden (chp. 1 Economy) (1854)). Yet this tension is made irrelevant by the framework within which it is confronted. "Shams and delusions are esteemed for higher truth, while reality is fabulous. . . .By closing the eyes and slumbering, and consenting to be deceived by shows, men establish and confirm their daily life of routine, and habit everywhere, which still is built on purely illusory foundations." (Ibid., chp. 2, Where I Lived--What I Lived For). And the illusion of the foundation of life, of the basis of good and bad, is in turn reduced to irrelevance when one passes from one to another generation. Thoreau understood that "[o]ne generation abandons the enterprise of another like stranded vessels." (Henry David Thoreau, Walden (chp. 1 Economy) (1854)).
(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)
Society knows what it wants! The limits of knowledge are set by the desire to know certain things in certain ways; those who control the mechanics of knowledge relevance and the frame within which it is produced and interpreted, shape the way in which the possible is understood and veils the rest. The production of knowledge is commodified and disciplined through markets, like any other product. What society knows is what it wants to know, and society always knows what it wants to know. The universe of that desire describes the totality of the reality of knowledge and its production; the rest is veiled. But the satisfaction of this demand requires an academic industry that is willing to meet the demands for knowledge that serves to meet societal needs. Thus the contradiction, knowledge exists to conform and advance intuition or to achieve an objective; knowledge production does not exist independent of the premises with which it is meant to engage. It is only from time to time, when its essential contradictions are exposed, that one pauses, if only momentarily, to consider the character of the edifice thus constructed. And so it is with the case of Diederik Stapel--who epitomizes all that is valuable in this framework structure, and semiotic incoherence of notions of "fraud" in the production of "useful" knowledge, when science is geared to tell people, and the institutions developed for their management, what they want to hear
. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, "The Mind of a Con Man: Diererik Stapel, a Dutch Social Psychologist, Perpetrated an Audacious Fraud by Making Up Studies That Told the World What it Wanted to Hear About Human Nature
," The New York Times Magazine,
April 28, 2013.