There are no authorities: Stop block quoting to make a point (a short rant)

I’ll be honest, when I’m reading someone’s blog and they have a block quote by a philosopher to lend credit to their position on something, I usually skip the entire thing. Theists often block quote C.S. Lewis or, for whatever god awful reason, William Lane Craig. Atheists do the same with Hitchens or Dawkins. I’ll be even honester: I’ve done it too. When I see this I sigh. I’m reading your page. If I wanted to read what Lewis or Craig or Hitchens or Dawkins say about something, I’ll go to the library and check out their book. Or I’ll read their blog.

When people use block quotes to make a point, two things go through my head. 1) They haven’t gone through the effort to form their own opinion on the topic, and 2) I wonder if this is the product of quote mining. First, I’m curious about your views. That’s why I clicked on your blog. Tell me in your words how you feel about something. And second, quote mining is a form of intellectual dishonesty. If at all possible, stay away from it. A few accidental quotes out of context might be forgiven, but don’t make a habit of it.

This doesn’t mean you should put everything in your own words. I don’t mind people directly block quoting bible or Quran verses. And if you quote an academic journal, I’d recommend the block quote (because I do check those to make sure they’re accurate representations of what’s in the actual journal… you don’t want to be the subject of a Rayan Zehn rant… I have zero tolerance for that. See my video on that here). Block quotes are also acceptable when you’re criticizing someone else’s work. But that’s about it.

In the field of philosophy there are no authorities. Reference the giants if you will. Use links if you must refer readers back to the authors from whom you got your ideas. But don’t — for the love of all that is holy and sacred — make a blog post with an opening paragraph, followed by a 1,500 word block quote from some author, and concluded with a one paragraph closing line. Put things into your own words. I’ve probably missed out on some good ideas because I’ve been put off by your persistent block quoting.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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2 Responses to There are no authorities: Stop block quoting to make a point (a short rant)

  1. Roger Wilco | humanisthuman says:

    Um, I tend to quote god when I’m poking fun at planetary destruction, or foreskin hunts. Sorry. The devil makes me do it.

  2. I do the same thing. I don’t want to read an entire blog post of Dawkins’ words. I want to hear what the author of the blog has to say. When I read block quotes, all I can think is what’s your point?

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