Friday, 14 November 2008

"There aren't ANY intellectually honest arguments"

In a text called An Unkind response to my PAS Article Derek Fincham now criticises me for analyzing in detail what he said in his recent Int Jnl. Cult. Prop. text: "A Coordinated Legal and Policy Approach to Undiscovered Antiquities: Adapting the Cultural Heritage Policy of England and Wales to Other Nations of Origin". I guess he was expecting everyone to nod their heads approvingly and write kindly “very nice Derek”. In this blog, I was however addressing the ideas rather than the author and wrote two pieces analyzing what he had written, one here and the second more detailed here (oddly enough, although he seems to be reacting to the second, in his reply today as it stands this evening, Fincham apparently only gives a hyperlink to the first of these two texts).

Anyway, he is not so much concerned with what I said about his main ideas because, as he puts it: I don't really have a lot to say about the points he raises, because there aren't any intellectually honest arguments. None at all Mr Fincham? I am sure the pro-collecting lobby are glad to hear that verdict.

Nevertheless, comparison of what I wrote with Fincham’s text by those able to see it within the context of how the PAS actually works in England and Wales will allow readers to make up their own minds whether the points I made are an honest reaction to what Fincham wrote or a dishonest and thoughtless one. Take it or leave it.

I made however a number of specific points, each of them referenced by page number to Fincham’s text. Of course merely categorizing my two responses as “intellectually dishonest” “petty attacks” neatly relieves Fincham of any reason to actually address any of the points I made, except to pretend that my remarks were based on things “taken out of context” and “twisted”. Fincham's published text however could have done with some much closer editing, and really does contain some very unfortunate statements, misleading ones too, which I tried to point out, and for that I make no apologies. I do think also - and fail to see why I cannot express that opinion - that the text is far too reliant on an uncritical use of a single source of information about the PAS (their own spin-filled annual reports). It is a shame that the author has not the grace to admit even this.

More importantly, I also pointed out where there were serious problems with the core idea of the text which were nowhere addressed in the original text and it is a matter of regret that Fincham has not taken the opportunity to expand on them in his reply.

Fincham ends his comments by lecturing us how to promote "meaningful discourse". My own feeling is that a "meaningful discourse" about the erosiove effects of portable antiquity collecting on the archaeological record can only develop when the people involved are not continually dodging the issues.


Paul Barford said...

Instead of clarifying himself properly, Derek Fincham alleges "intellectual dishonesty" on my part in discussing his ideas. The "proof" of this consists of two places in my text where I have queried what he said (giving both times the requisite page reference so the reader can check its wording and context). Fincham pretends to misunderstand why I queried these points (among oithers).

In one case, he writes ”He also accuses me of stating the PAS pays finders and detectorists. No. I state very clearly "If the object is deemed treasure, the finder is entitled to a reward based on the market price of the object." One of the main reasons I wrote the piece was to make clear that the PAS does not pay finders of non-treasure objects!”. Hmmm. If before jumping in accusing me of “intellectual dishonesty” Fincham had checked what he had actually written he would have found I was referring to the comment (and actually I gave the page reference: IJCP 15 p. 355) that the PAS incorporates “the public’s interest in ancient objects and a potential reward”. This is quoted directly from Fincham’s text. What “potential reward” then is he claiming there that the PAS offers?

I guess I should have explained (well, actually I did not really think there was any need to explain) that in my discussion of his text I am using the term “Portable Antiquities Scheme” to actually mean the Portable Antiquities Scheme and not anything else.

The PAS is something quite separate (both legally and operationally) from the workings of the Treasure Act (which of course does reward finders). Confusing the two is quite a common mistake made by people writing about the British system from the other side of the Atlantic [].

I think Fincham repeating it in an article of this type is potentially misleading to the reader. Which is why I pointed it out.

Fincham simply will not admit that what he actually wrote, the way he wrote it, is wrong. Just plain wrong.

I really do not see it is at all “intellectually dishonest” of me to point out that at this point of his text, Fincham confuses the two in what he wrote. Whether or not failing to admit he made a mistake here is entirely intellectually honest, I leave the reader to decide. Who cares? He has thus made himself an excuse not to actually engage in discussion of the core ideas.

Derek Fincham said...

It seemed pretty plain to me that when a detectorist heads out to a field, she is not doing so with the intention of only discovering "non-treasure" objects or "treasure" objects.

Setting aside the issue of whether it is the best policy, wouldn't many detectorists want to seek treasure as defined by the Treasure Act, and thus a lucrative reward from the Crown? Then they might unearth non-treasure objects right? The motive would be a treasure reward, but they may discover other objects. This is the 'potential' reward I was discussing; and I think a good-faith reading of the entire article would make this point clear. You seem incapable of that.

Paul Barford said...

I think one might ask why you seem so incapable of saying “yes, the phrasing is ambiguous and potentially misleading, I missed that, thank you for pointing it out ”. It would be much simpler than you desperately trying to prove that I am “intellectually dishonest” in querying what is in black and white on the printed page. By the way, the text says “public” and not “metal detectorist”.

You dig yourself even deeper into the mire with your next revelation of what seems “pretty plain” to you and what UK “metal detectorists would want to seek”. I really think you need to talk to them or at least seek reliable information from those who have. The suggestion that the possibility of a treasure reward is what primarily motivates a substantial number of detectorists completely disregards the whole rationale behind the “bridge building” that is going on in England and Wales between archaeologists and collectors. This is not what the “metal detectorists” themselves say (it is a label they have tried hard to lose since the 1970s), its not what the PAS says, and its not the official line. Since the days of Tony Gregory in Norfolk, the whole of the archaeological outreach has been based on the view that this is not what they do it for. We are told that they do it out of an engagement with the past, and the attraction is precisely in finding those small everyday objects which are for them a tangible link with the past. That is the whole point of the PAS doing outreach to them, based on a notion of "common ground". If you say they are loot-seeking treasure hunters then you are negating the whole sense of the PAS and the fundamental assumptions on which it operates and is funded.

It also suggests, I am sorry to say, that you’ve not gone too far into the background of the Scheme and thus misapprehend the social background (the understanding of which I would argue is fundamental to its adaptation elsewhere in a totally different social context).

It is the failure to discuss this which I see as the fundamental weakness of the paper we are discussing. I think we all look forward to a follow-up article where you develop the hows and whys of this adaptation to the situations in "other countries of origin" or collectable portable antiquities.

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