Working as an Independent Scholar on Theoretical Foundations

4 Feb

In the blog post before last (the first one), I raised some concerns about how the current system works for proposing and evaluating new theories. In the last blog post, shared some of my experience about the difficulties of receiving a fair hearing/review.

So why not just go with the flow and follow the usual path for being a grad student, post-grad, lecturer, or professor in an esteemed academic institution?

First of all, people who see new openings for leaving the beaten path are not the people who are willing to spend a lot of time to get perfect test scores. Rather, personal curiosity drives the process of discovery and education. One observer of this tension in my life observed that a person cannot serve two masters — the master that demands activities for getting good grades versus the master known as curiosity or the quest to know.

Secondly, is it practical to work on changing the foudation of a building by working within that building? In this context, the building is the construct ideas that the seasoned yeomen of the academic business all ascribe to. Working outside the building is really the only way that such a major change can be attempted. We want to preserve the good parts of the structure and put it on a foundation that provides better support and allows for a greater scope of development.

Then, consider if a graduate advisor would let a grad student take on some big issue like the theoretical underpinnings of mathematics. Not likely. An advisor wants to know that the grad student can be successful with the proposed topic. Then, post-doc and lecturer opportunities are related to the scholar’s grad work. So, the usual path (leading to peer reviewed and/or published theoretical work) pretty much assures that new theoretical work is incremental and built on existing approved foundations.

That’s enough.  Just a little bit of attention to address questions that may have been raised. Let’s move on.

The main thing I want to get to is that in working together on knowledge, we need to have some standards that govern theoretical development. I plan to take this up in my next blog post.

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