Your Eminence

According to Mike’s Philosophical Definitions Page an Eminence is a “famous living academic whose work is relevant but sloppy. I’d like to elaborate more on that.

Normally, an academic must either use proper reference or sound argumentation if one is to claim something. The greater the claim, the greater the burden of proof, or “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, as it is often formulated. On the contrary, an Eminence can make claims and the greater the assertion, greater the probability that it will be quoted as a fact. It is the task of the lesser academic to examine the assertion and if it is not immediately obvious to him, educate himself until it is self-evident to him.

Contrary to Mike (who obviously isn’t an Eminence) I’d like to suggest that it is not a living academic who is most likely an Eminence; on the contrary it helps if one is dead. Then, it is possible for a lesser academic to base his studies about anything on the authority of the dead Eminence. One must search all of Eminence’s texts until one finds suggestions or hints that can be read to lend support to one’s own, lesser claims. The Eminence in question will not be around anymore to counter those findings, so one can use his texts to support any claim at all, even contradictory ones. If there doesn’t seem to be any text useful for your purposes the best thing to do is to find some long lost or mostly unknown texts (works of youth being the most commonly used) by the Eminence and then use this “hidden knowledge” on the subject as a basis for your all claims.

Wow, that sounds great, I hear you exclaim, but how do I recognize an Eminence? If you don’t already know at least one Eminence by heart I fear you are a failed academic. But I will give you some hope of covering up your utter failure as a researcher by giving some pointers in recognizing Eminences.

The first hint of an Eminence is the fact that he does not bother to use references. The ones he uses are only to show how wrong his predecessor have been on the subject or to reference his own, earlier works on the subject. Best Eminences reference only their own works, although using well-known names of their field without direct reference is also acceptable. They all agree with him anyway. Any Eminence worth his salt will name Aristotle at least once, preferably on a subject Aristotle has remained silent.

If you are still unsure about the identity of Eminences in your own field I suggest a field-test: Take a few dozen random books on general subjects in your field and check the people referenced. Any of them dead? For several hundred years? Any of them mentioned in all, or nearly all, books, even if it seems needless? Do the mentions lack any proper referencing? You got your Eminences right there. Congratulations, you can become a real academic now.

I bet you’re wondering right now how to become an Eminence. Sorry, but the answer is that you can’t become an Eminence. If one tries, one has already failed. Your best bet is dying and then waiting a few decades or centuries.